17 Aug 2019

NZ firm in Hong Kong among those affected by protests

12:07 pm on 17 August 2019

A New Zealand business in Hong Kong is among those feeling the effects of mass pro-democracy protests.

Philippa Kerr, General Manager of food import company, Eat The Kiwi

Philippa Kerr, general manager of food importing company Eat The Kiwi. Photo: Supplied

Hong Kong has been in turmoil for weeks, and hundreds of flights were cancelled last week as protests caused chaos at the international airport. Further mass pro-democracy demonstrations are expected in Hong Kong this weekend.

Food importing company Eat The Kiwi has an office in Sheung Wan and a warehouse in Kwai Chung closer to the airport.

"The immediate effects for us have been disruptions to our deliveries, because the roads have been closed, we've also had flight cancellations from Auckland to Hong Kong, delaying the arrival of our food," general manager Philippa Kerr said.

Ms Kerr said limited taxis and Ubers were making it hard for staff to get to work and just move around in general, but some deliveries had been easier for the company due to quieter roads from closed businesses.

"We're used to traffic jams with taxis tooting and people everywhere and lately at times the roads have been empty where they shouldn't be," she said.

"It's too early to tell what the long term implications might be, but already our hotel customers are reporting low occupancy rates as the volume of people travelling to Hong Kong has declined.

"Some of our restaurants that are usually booked out every night are no longer and our retailers are becoming more conservative in terms of taking on new products."

Ms Kerr said they're now looking at ways to bring in their food in through new channels, for example expanding their retail offering.

"Because of the political climate and looking back historically, you can learn from those times and learn how to set your company up to handle those scenarios," she said.

Despite the disruption, she plans to stick it out.

"I love it here and Hong Kong has always felt like a really safe place to live. There are no concerns walking home late at night and regardless of what is happening here at the moment it still feels very safe," she said.

Nearly 750 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, and tear gas has frequently been used by police in attempts to disperse protests across the city.

Several thousand protesters gathered peacefully at a downtown park on Friday for the "Stand with Hong Kong, Power to the People" rally, which had received police permission. Other protests planned for the weekend do not have police permission.

A rally set for Sunday by the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised million-strong marches in June, has only been permitted an assembly in Victoria Park on Hong Kong island, and not a march, because of safety concerns, Reuters reports. The group is appealing against the police decision.

- RNZ / Reuters

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